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Cybersecurity – Social Engineering Explained

June 14, 2023

Data protection is one of the biggest concerns affecting companies all around the world, with money invested in improving firewalls and adjusting software solutions to gradually eliminate all vulnerabilities.

However, social engineering creates a brand-new threat for organisations to respond to, targeting people rather than technology and making password barriers and anti-hacking measures effectively useless.

Learn more about what social engineering is, some examples of the most common types of social engineering attacks and how you can work with your employees to reduce the chances of these incidents happening to you.

 

What is Social Engineering?

 

Social engineering is a form of cyber-attack that doesn’t focus on finding vulnerabilities in the hardware or software itself, instead looking at infiltrating by targeting the people that use it. This manipulation technique relies on human error to primarily get access to valuable information or encourage somebody to transfer significant sums of money to the hacker.

These attacks don’t exclusively take place online or through digital interactions, with in-person conversations all being a part of building up a relationship that allows the attacker to manipulate the victim. Countering social engineering is a task that requires constant attention and awareness, or you could slip up without realising before it’s too late to respond.

 

Types of Social Engineering Attacks

 

There are a lot of different types of social engineering attacks that you need to be aware of, with each targeting different people and using unique techniques to get access to your information. Some of the main forms of social engineering attacks that organisations are likely to struggle with include:

 

Phishing

Phishing is the most common form of cyberattack, using human error as a means of accessing confidential parts of an organisation’s network by gaining access to someone’s credentials. Multiple different forms of phishing attacks exist, so you need to be aware of all of them and their consequences:

 

Angler Phishing

Angler phishing is a relatively new form of phishing, using social media to create fake business accounts that seem to be legitimate. They create posts that guide an audience to web pages that steal their data under the premise that the target is going to a legitimate location.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a highly targeted form of phishing that targets individual people, tailoring their messages to one person. This ranges from simply including their name in the email, or doing more thorough research to create an emotional appeal.

Whaling

Whaling specifically targets high-value individuals in large organisations such as a multinational company or a university. By accessing the accounts of executives, infiltrators have more access to information and authority when attempting to access other accounts.

Business Email Compromise

Business email compromise focuses on getting someone’s sign-on credentials for their company accounts. The attacker uses this information to enter the business network and access financial and personal data.

 

Pharming

Pharming attacks consist of creating a completely fake website that appears authentic to anyone that is visiting. These are typically designed to replicate websites that their institutions might use, making use of their graphic design assets, site structure and tone of voice.

This system typically involves getting the user to enter the sensitive information themselves by building a greater sense of trust between the victim and the false website. When done to a high standard, it is difficult for even attentive users to see the difference between a legitimate site and a fake one.

 

Honey Traps

Attackers in a honey trap pretend to be romantically, sexually or financially interested in the victim. Whilst this is mainly an issue that occurs to individuals outside of professional environments, it is still an issue that companies face when individual employees are targeted.

The end goal in these cases is to get the victim to hand over money or sensitive data that can be held to ransom. This doesn’t just involve someone trying to seduce the victim, but can include financial deals that seem too good to be true that try to get the victim to commit.

 

How to Protect Your Organisation from Social Engineering Attacks

 

Protecting your business from social engineering attacks seems like a difficult task, but it is one that switched-on companies can complete with relative ease. The main steps to take when protecting your company from potential attacks using social engineering techniques include:

 

Set Firm Policies

Companies are only as secure as their cybersecurity policies, with some companies being much more vulnerable because of their institutional processes. After all, you can’t blame someone for falling victim to a social engineering attack if they are only doing what they were asked.

Set rigid rules such as passwords needing to be reset every few months, not allowing links in emails and immediate reporting of any content that appears suspicious. If there is a culture of vigilance in place, the chance of someone lazily allowing access to their account vastly falls.

 

Train Staff Consistently

Training courses, especially those that have a focus on preventing people from being easily persuaded by external parties, are a fundamental part of guarding a company against harm. An ideal course is assessed at the end so you know that an employee completely understands everything that they have been told, whilst still being accessible enough for a reasonable pass rate.

Work with external experts where possible so you can tailor all of the advice to your needs, rather than forcing an existing course to suit your unique requirements.

 

Use Tight Account Management

There are always going to be mistakes in which someone accidentally clicks on a link in an email or enters their password and username into a fake website due to a lapse in concentration. Although this account is sure to be compromised, you can immediately put a stop to that account infecting others by locking it.

Some institutions do this automatically if they detect the account sending out spam emails to other internal accounts, with fast action being the difference between a single incident and an epidemic of data loss.

 

Conclusion

 

As cyber threats continue to rise, it’s important to protect your business from them. When it comes to social engineering, the biggest protection you have is educating your employees. Social engineering attacks prey on people, but if your people understand how to spot the signs they are less likely to fall victim to one.

 

Why Choose Eventura as your Cybersecurity Partner?

 

With over 20 years experience in cybersecurity, we know our stuff. Our team of cybersecurity experts can complete a full audit of your business and identify any areas of weakness, which could leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks.

We were even mentioned in the Governments National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Annual Review 2020 when we were chosen to test their “Exercise in a Box” designed to help small businesses prepare and respond to cyberthreats. You can read the article here.

There is a common misconception that cyberattacks don’t happen to SMEs but this couldn’t be further from the truth. With our expert knowledge, we can help you protect your business’s future from the ever increasing threat of cybercriminals.

If you would like to speak to one of our cybersecurity experts or request a cybersecurity audit, you can request a free call back here.

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